Imagine this: You set your alarm the night before to get up and meet the group at 6:00am. Then you stay up a little later than usual to watch just one more episode of that hot new show on Netflix. You start thinking about the texts a few hours earlier where you were making swim plans with your friends. Everyone decided on a pace, a distance and Sally said she is bringing her fins and a snack so she wont get too far behind or bitchy (thank god!). You had a whole weather breakdown and you checked the tides/winds. Bob’s wife is currently making those orange/cranberry scones for everyone and they’re your absolute favorite. But then, without warning, the plans to make your excuse to not show up start rolling through your mind:
“If I wake up and I’m too tired, I’ll text them right away. They won’t mind. There’s like 12 people swimming tomorrow. Lots of people swim on Wednesdays.”
You stop yourself. The inner monologue starts going, “Well, hold on, you just committed…the scones…wind is cooperating…Sally is actually bringing a feed so I won’t have to shove an applesauce at her at mile 3…but I did a lot this week already...”
Then it continues, “No, I said I was going, so I’m going to go. Plus, I have to hit 35k this week so if I go as planned tomorrow then I can hit my goal for the week with out having to do a monster on the weekend.”
You turn off Netflix and fall asleep.
*Alarm goes off at 5:15am*
Inner monologue begins, “Ugh, I’m so tired. I mean, you shouldn’t train tired, right? Rest is good for your body. I do much better when I get proper rest. I’ve been training so hard lately, I deserve a break. It’s okay to take a morning off.”
*Picks up cell phone from bedside table*
Now, half asleep/half awake, you start coming up with your excuse. You begin typing. Then erasing. Then typing. The screen is still a little blurry because your eyes haven’t adjusted to the light yet. The reality comes crashing down, it’s too late. You’ve let yourself come to the crossroad of going back to sleep or getting to the beach. What will you do?
We’ve all been there. Many times. We open the door for ourselves to make excuses. We negotiate with ourselves constantly. If I do this, then it’s okay to do that. It’s a vicious cycle and you have to stop doing it right now. Sounds pretty easy right? Just get out of bed. Make the thoughts go away. Snap your fingers and magically become a different person. We all know that isn’t realistic.
The truth is that it’s not easy. We’re not always successful in turning around our attitudes. The key here is to try. We all have days or weeks when we legitimately need to stay in bed, get more rest, put more fuel in the tank. But if we allow ourselves to negotiate, we’re allowing weakness to enter our training. What are you going to do in the middle of the Channel when shit gets hard? Are you going to let your mind go off on a wild “if I get half way, that’s still good enough” rant in your head?
Training is equal parts physical and mental.
- Every time you allow yourself to break up that 5,000yd set into 100s because the 500s are boring…you’ve just quit your swim.
- Everytime you allow yourself to sleep in a little longer and go out with the 6:30am group instead of the 6:00am group and cut off 30 min of your planned training…you’ve just quit your swim.
- Everytime you stop short on distance because the wind is too strong or the water is too cold…you’ve just quit your swim.
- Everytime you skip out on the group weekend swim…you’ve just quit your swim.
The point is, you subconsciously create a habit of quitting on yourself every single time you allow negotiation to happen in your training. When you do this you are letting someone down and that someone is YOU. I’ll be the first to admit, that I do this a lot. I have to practice self awareness because if I don’t then I let myself down. It’s not everyones first reaction to run towards the tougher option. It takes constant practice to be able to recognize this behavior and step up to it and say “not today doubt”. Because, isn’t that just exactly what that is? It’s doubt.
Your doubt says things like, “The 500s are boring and I don’t want to do all 10, maybe I’ll do 5 of them and then the rest I’ll break up another way.” – By allowing this to happen, you’re saying “I am doubting that I can do 10 x 500s today, so let me make this easier for myself.” – HELLLLL NO! You think Mother Ocean is going to let you get off scott free? You think she’s going to say, “Oh, look, it’s Sam! Aww, I like Sam, let’s make his channel crossing easy for him.” JIGGA WHAT? No way.
Marathon swimming is hard. It’s lonely. You have to put in the work or you’re going to find yourself half way from Catalina to the mainland in 4ft rollers with wind smacking you from the north and pushing you directly into your paddler and you know what you’re going to do? You’re going to quit.
If you want to know the hard-to-swallow secret to becoming a bad ass marathon swimmer, stop making excuses and get the fuck out there. If you’re not able to do that, then maybe this sport isn’t for you. Marathon swimmers are bad ass. We’re the ones who look at 10K Saturday as a warm up…but we didn’t get there overnight. It took WORK. It took SACRIFICE. It hurts, it’s uncomfortable, it’s exhausting. But it’s also the most amazing feeling in the world.
What they don’t tell you is that when you’re out in the water alone you face every single one of your deepest darkest fears. Your mind takes you on a wild ride. You have to build up the strength to push through these moments, because that’s just what they are; moments. So the next time you find yourself starting a negotiation at 5:15am, take a deep breath and put one foot on the ground, slowly ease yourself up to a sitting position, take another deep breath and then get out of bed. Once you’re up, it’s really hard to go back down, so just do it, just sit up and then just stand up and then just get to that beach.